The Equal Rights Amendment began its earliest discussions in 1920. These discussions took place immediately after two-thirds of the states approved women’s suffrage. The nineteenth century was intertwined with several feminist movements such as abortion, temperance, birth control and equality. Many lobbyists and political education groups formed in these times. One such organization is the Eagle Forum, who claims to lead the pro-family movement. On the opposite side of the coin is The National Organization for Women, or NOW, which takes action to better the position of women in society.
Feminism is the most powerful force for change in our time. The Equal Rights Amendment has been a powerfully debated subject for decades. Having passed the Senate with a vote of 84-8, it failed to get the requisite thirty-eight states to ratify it. Many discussions and arguments arise over the continued push for the Equal Rights Amendment. The need for change must be a consensus and achieved both nationally and at the state level. The attempt to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment continues, but with few supports left, it appears to have lost its momentum.
The supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment seem to feel sex discrimination laws are simply not enough. The federal laws and regulations contain many loopholes, are inconsistently interpreted and may be repealed outright (NOW 1). Many supporters claim the Equal Rights Amendment is needed “to clarify law for the lower courts, whose decisions still reflect confusion and inconsistency about how to deal with sex discrimination claims (Francis 2). There is a supporting theory argument that “an amendment of equality would absolutely shift the burden away from those fighting discrimination and place it where it belongs, on those that deserve it. They won’t have to justify why discrimination should be allowed, rather than women having to explain why we deserve equality” (Gaughen 13). Some supporters say that because women’s salaries
still lag behind men, we need an Equal Rights Amendment more than ever (Hennessey 3). The real issue, claim some supporters, is the “right to bodily integrity, and without this basic right, women can have no true freedom” (NOW 2). Legal sex discrimination is not a thing of the past, and the progress of the last forty years is not irreversible without the protection of an amendment (Francis 1).
Feminist claim that “The ERA’s most valuable effect would be the psychological victory it would provide women” (Steiner 35). Women are underpaid in the workforce, required to pay higher insurance premiums and are half as likely as men to get pensions (NOW 4). Supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment remind us of a traditional assumption, ‘Men hold rights and women must prove that they hold them” (Francis 2). Supporter claim amazement that, “Even in the twenty first century, the United States Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens” (Francis 4). Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment believe that “unless we put into the Constitution the bedrock principle that equality of rights cannot be denied or abridged on account of sex, the political and judicial victories women have achieved with their blood, sweat and tears for the past two centuries are vulnerable” (Francis 2).
Opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment seem to feel women have everything they need. Women are still evolving from the age-old roots of childbearing, to the new necessities of selfhood, personhood, economically rewarding work and the new possibilities of choice, personal control and personal growth (Friedman 233). Opponents believe the Equal Rights Amendment would be hurtful to women, to men, to the family, to local government and to society as a whole (Schlafly 68). “Women are entering the workforce, running for political office and seeking jobs once closed to them in record numbers” which, supporter agree, make an Equal Rights Amendment unnecessary (Baldez 244). The Equal Rights Amendment will not give women more educational or employment opportunities, more pay, more promotions, employment rights or choices that they do not now have (Schlafly 118). The Equal Rights Amendment can do little more for women than they already have achieved by legislation and favorable judicial rulings and to pursue the fight for an Equal rights Amendment in order to gain only marginal benefits involves heavy costs (Steiner 37).
Many, on- the-fence opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment would gladly change their minds “if someone could to a specific slight or some issue where women have unequal rights, but changing the Constitution for the sake of making a statement is a waste of time” (Kellams 1). Opponents claim that women already enjoy every Constitutional right that men enjoy and have enjoyed equal employment opportunities since 1961 (Lopez 1). Women would not gain any new employment rights whatsoever because federal employment laws are already completely sex neutral (Schlafly 69). Decisions of the Supreme Court can now do everything an Equal Rights Amendment can do and more so, opponents argue, “It is difficult to see the need for the Equal Rights Amendments installment in the Constitution, when the United States Supreme Court has largely fulfilled the amendments chief objectives” (Baldez 245). Some women do not believe the Equal Rights Amendment is needed because women “do not need special protecting” adding, “it is not necessary because women are now sitting in seats once occupied by men and do not believe they got there because they are women”(Hennessey 3).
When address with inequality in education, politics, the law and at home, opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment argue that” women are entitled to the same rights as men, and the natural rights of civilized men and women are government, property, harmonious development of all their powers and the gratification of their desires” (Gaughen 21). Women are now judged by their abilities and the women’s liberation movement deliberately degrades the homemaker, hacks away at her self-esteem and self-worth, while stripping her of her pride and pleasure in being a female. The best cure for women is to stop listening to women libbers (Schlafly 68).
Women’s rights have certainly come a long way. Maybe the most important thing that we learned over the decades is that everyone has choices.
Women can freely choose to stay at home during one part of their life and are free to pursue other possibilities later, if she should so chose. Some wonder if we have a long way to go for equality, while some wonder if we have won the booby prize being treated like men. Women, as individuals, have to make decisions that are appropriate for them. Each woman’s situation, lifestyle, dreams, desires and values are different. The world and its opportunities belong, not to the militant women with her strident demands for a gender-free society, but to a positive woman who achieves a sound perspective on life, then fixes her own personal priorities (Schlafly 2).
Francis, Roberta. “Why We Need The Equal Rights Amendment.” National Council of
Women’s Organizations. Dec.2000. pp1-5 .
Freidman, Betty. The Second Stage. New York: The Summit Books, 1981.
Gaughen, Shasta. Introduction To Women’s Rights: Contemporary Issues Companion
San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2003.
Hennessey, Kathleen. ‘Nevada Lawmaker Raises Equal Rights Issue.” Las Vegas Sun 22
Nov. 2006: B3. http://www.lasvegassun.com/html.
Kellams, Laura.”26 Years Later, Senate to Vote on ERA Issue: Effect on Resolution
Unknown.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 27 March 2005:D1. .
Lopez, Kathryn. “ERA: Equality for Whom?” Sacramento Bee 22 June 2001: D2..
Schlafly, Phyllis. The Power of the Positive Women. New York: Arlington House Press,
Steiner, Gilbert. Constitutional Inequality. Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution,
“Who Needs An Equal Rights Amendment? You Do! National Organization for Women